Instituto de Enseñanza Secundaria Manuel de Falla
Status: Public High School
“ At the high school, there is someone in charge of organizing the digital update, but she sees the need for a support network for people who are about to retire or retire early. ”
“ The combination of family care and work, the disconnection of teachers and families, and the generation gap all can have negative effects for teachers. ”
“ The main problem comes from the lack of support from the administration. And the lack of teamwork, there is a lot of detachment and feeling of not belonging to the group. ”
“ Finding out how teenagers communicate, for example via Twitter or TikTok helps the teachers to understand and adapt to their students. ”
The retirement age has been gradually increasing and will increase by 5 to 10 years to age 65 for both men and women by 2030. Have you thought about this?
I have thought about this because I see colleagues who are living it. But it is true that in my case, I feel that there is still so much time left that I don't know very well and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the concept of retirement will be when I reach that age. I hope that retirement as such continues to exist, but right now I am 41 and I know that I have a lot of working life ahead of me. So I see it in my colleagues, some suffer from it, they are afraid of this increase in retirement age. But since I like my job so much, it's good to think about retirement, but we'll see how I will deal with it when the time comes.
Do you think that at this age (65 years old) you will still be fully employed and that your ability to work will be high?
Well, I hope so because I believe that in this profession, when you are in contact with students, in my case I am from Secondary School, it is very important to know how to bond with them, to have good contact with them. In that sense, I think that given this field of work, yes, my capacity will be different but the experience I will have will be even greater. I hope to be fully trained and able to bridge that generational gap that is getting bigger and bigger, but it is true that I believe that our work allows us to always be in contact with that youth and be able to maintain that desire to work.
Do you have a personal plan?
Lately we've had a lot of insistence from the administration and since I am a civil servant and I work for a public center, we have a lot of updates in what they call “the digital plan”. In a few years we will have to have a digital accreditation, just like what happens with the European language framework, and right now that is the plan that is offered to us. But a personal plan of mine, no. I have been teaching for more than thirteen or fourteen years, and in that time it has been the case of learning on the fly. So yes, I should consider it, I should stop to think about what my plan is. But, as I told you before, since I look at retirement from a distance, and at the moment this works for me, I just take advantage of what the administration offers me and talk a lot with the kids so as not to become disconnected. But I should start searching, because it is true that sometimes fatigue takes its toll and it is important not to let yourself fall into the boredom that I unfortunately see in some colleagues.
Do you have a plan for your high school?
In my school, it is true that we have some kind of plan. We have a coordinator who is in charge of digital connection, let's say, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if came up with a more developed plan, not purely digital, but a kind of support network so that teachers know how to connect well and also how to stay motivated and active. Because I have cases colleagues who are already looking forward to counting down the days until retirement and others, however, who are eager to participate and would like to do so. Then it wouldn't be a bad thing if each institute had its own organization in terms of senior mentors, or something like, that but this needs to be discussed with the management team because the same thing always happens. If you get into a project like that, you do it at the price of your personal time and that, unfortunately, increases the work, and decreases the desire to continue working, so it's a vicious cycle.
Any other problems that may cause capacity decrease in teacher?
Well, I don't quite agree that the capacity decreases. Because it is true that you gain an incredible amount of experience, and I think it's a pity to not be able to make the most of that experience. But it is true that there are other circumstances that affect the work capacity of teachers. Especially when a teacher starts to age, or their parents become elderly and start to require more care. I hope that now, with the new family law in place, there will be a little more help for people to combine external duties, such as taking care of the children or caring for parents alongside workload and work-related duties.
Another issue that undoubtedly has an effect is that of the generational gap between students and teachers. This is not so much related to the teaching workload itself, rather the issue of being able to get along well with students. If there is limited connection with the students, that makes you worn out, of course, which can be a contributor to burnout.
What do you believe are the reasons that teachers may start to feel disconnected or outdated?
Well, I think that from what I see in my colleagues who are less connected, the first reason is the lack of support from the administration. If these colleagues had had more support or more facilities perhaps they would not have seen it as so necessary to stop teaching. I have had colleagues in the past who were teaching at a different time, with a lower teaching load and with different work dynamics. And above all, I also believe that we have lost that sense of teamwork, the feeling of teamwork between teachers. Nowadays institutes give me a very disconnected feeling. For example “I go about my business, I am a geography and history teacher” or “I am a mathematics teacher”. When I was a student, I saw that my teachers were a team and today they seem much more detached. I don't know if it is a question of society in general, but that detachment, that feeling of not belonging is a reason. Because in my institute the truth is that the amount of permanent staff is quite high, but there is not the feeling of belonging that I had when I was a student. Now, as a teacher, I don't experience it the same way and I think that may be one of the reasons that lead to that kind of disconnection. A shame, really.
What are some other measures that could be introduced in institutions to address age-related problems?
We haven’t talked about this one, but I believe that families also have some responsibility in this sense and should be informed that their children have a teacher who is close to retirement age. And it’s also important that they are supportive of it too. But unfortunately, there is less and less school-family contact. But it would seem like a good idea to me that other parts of the educational community, the families, acknowledge the fact that they have a teacher close to retirement who needs their support. Families can function very well, but they can also be very demanding. They may even turn the tables and think that a teacher who is about to retire is not the best option to be teaching their children. But first, not only for the family but for society in general, it is important to value the importance of teachers close to retirement, and recognise they bring value to the institution, without a doubt.